The Moral Argument against Vivisection/Nonhuman Animal Research
Vivisection is the practice of torturing and killing innocent lives, allegedly in the name of altruism and compassion. This is why it has been criticized as far back as Shakespeare, formed the inspiration for Frankenstein, and why the likes of Mark Twain, Leo Tolstoy, and Gandhi were opposed to it strictly on moral grounds.
Intuitively we know that if you seek to help someone, torturing innocent bystanders is morally perverse, like saving a village by destroying it. We don’t help a homeless person by massacring a family and call it kindness.
Vivisection is defended according to the belief that human animals have superior moral worth to the nonhuman animals being tortured and killed in ways we would generally consider extreme punishment if carried out on the most despised criminals in history.
This can be called a belief in human supremacy or human exceptionalism (in an effort to disguise the “bigot” connotations of a superiority complex).
Human supremacy is assumed to be an absolute objective truth–without proving it to be so. In fact, in reality, human supremacy beliefs are biased personal opinion just like beliefs in racial, gender, or religious supremacy. Any trait, criteria, or attribute cited to confirm this alleged superiority, whether mind, intelligence, soul, creativity, divine or biological specialness, survival of the fittest, tenacious moral instinct, moral reciprocity, an unspecified faculty X, or a bundle of them, are as much subjective personal opinion as the importance given to skin colour or gender. Not only can one question that all humans possess the attributes or that all nonhumans lack them, but Nature does not confirm this alleged superiority through natural phenomenon like weather, gravity, earthquakes etc and the constant routine natural exploitation of humans by other humans–which does include experimentation on humans without their consent.
Nature cannot be shown to validate this allegedly “objective and absolute” superior moral status of humans. And invisible supreme deities are conveniently vague and mute on the subject as so-called indisputable religious texts are constantly disputed- to the point of human bloodshed. If you claim humans can justify the systemic exploitation of nonhumans based on biased personal opinion then another human can justify the systemic exploitation of humans using biased personal opinion since you cannot prove these opinions to be absolute, fair objective truth. In short, if you want human rights, you must accept nonhuman rights to close this ethical loophole.
It is common sense that only humans can be shown to use moral codes and laws in an effort to control their behavior thus they are the only ones obligated to follow them, nonhumans benefit without needing to reciprocate out of fairness and consistency, since punishing them for being unable to follow human laws when you know they cannot would be like punishing a blind man for not reading warning signs or an armless man for not grabbing a drowning swimmer.
Moral perfection is impossible; you only do the best you can in any given situation. The failure to stop homicide or child abuse does not justify concentration camps, thus the failure to stop the accidental death of microbes or plants does not justify the construction and maintenance of vivisection labs.
Those that claim nonhuman experiments are necessary can be asked which drug or treatment would they consider safer–one only tested on rats or monkeys, or one only tested on humans? Their answer will reveal the truth on the importance of nonhuman animals in human medicine.
Common sense tells us that if you seek to find medical treatments for elephants, you do not focus on giraffes. We overlook this in human medical research because we consider nonhumans inferior in value (based on biased personal opinions).
Nonhuman animal research is big business for vivisectors (how many do you know that live in poverty?), breeders, and cage manufacturers, and the former have a vested interest in conjuring up new experiments on “disposable” life forms to keep their paychecks, while telling the public that the research is important and a “breakthrough.” A week does not go by without another report of a “scientific miracle” thanks to non human animal experiments; although with the caution that human trials are years away.
In ancient times, temple priests and witch doctors would cut open live animals to read their entrails to encourage the hope and health of society (a good harvest, easy childbirth). Those that opposed it endangered society by angering the gods and betraying their community. Today, some researchers will claim that if nonhuman animal research stopped, the world would descend into a hell of disease and misery (without explaining why society and culture endured even during the bubonic plague). By such logic, humans should have died out thousands of years ago. Animal researchers promote the view that life works according to a quasi-Darwinian “Great Chain of Being” hierarchy where animals follow a ladder of complexity– ending with humanity, and that you can take “lower animals” apart and reassemble them as easily as a jigsaw puzzle.
If nonhuman animal research is necessary for producing safe drugs and treatments why then do we need clinical trials on humans? Why does Pfizer have to conduct medical trials in Africa? Why do drugs like Thalidomide get pulled after being shown to be safe in nonhuman animals?
Such discussions never go far without a vivisector using the desperate emergency situation–burning barn, house, boat, –where you have to choose to save either a human or a nonhuman.
Ignoring the fact that scientists cannot find cures for illnesses by simply torturing one or a few or thousands of rats to death no matter how much they want people to believe they can perform miracles, the answer to this should be no less controversial than if the choice was between two humans. One familiar, one not.
If you chose the familiar human, does it mean you want the loser to be tortured in a lab? If you refuse to choose, does that mean you do not love the familiar as much as the stranger? This question is not raised because it reveals the bias and double standard in the myth of human supremacy.
Common sense tells us that the best and safest research model for human disease is another human. If finding a cure for disease is so important, why aren’t scientists and patients advocating the use of criminals or volunteers in medical experiments? Humans are the best and safest model for research, and we send healthy people off to be maimed and killed in wars for natural resources, religion, and political ideology, and yet the war against cancer is only considered of dire importance when it comes to the discussion of abolishing nonhuman animals in research.
This exposes how the human supremacy myth is the driving force in defenses of vivisection.
Another vivisector argument is to condemn a critic of vivisection for having had any medical treatment that can be linked to vivisection. The moral perfection demand.
They conveniently ignore the work of Dr James Sims, Dr Joself Mengele, Dr Jonas Salk or the Pfizer researchers among others. Harmful research on humans against their consent has also been done and the research preserved and used. Do they make the same demand of human rights activists that they cannot use anything that may be traced back to human experimentation they oppose? Sims experimented on slaves, Mengele on prisoners, Salk on mental patients, Pfizer on Africa villagers.
If we confronted them, it is likely they would defend their experiments along the lines of the superior worth of themselves or their intended patients to those being used as research models. A supremacy belief based on biased personal opinion just like the vivisector of nonhuman animals. But unlike vivisectors exploiting nonhuman victims, the anatomical value of such work could not be questioned. Elephants are the practical model for elephant medicine.
Researchers say they need to use nonhuman animals for research because they are like us–-and yet they say they deserve no rights because they are not like us. This highlights the real issue: the motivation for animal research beyond money and sociopathic tendencies is an arrogant belief that humans as a species are superior in value to all other life, based upon biased personal opinion criteria conveniently determined by those who stand to benefit from the discrimination and exploitation.
If we say that someone who is ill does not have the moral right to demand that other humans be used for research to find a cure (even though the results would be far more beneficial than using nonhumans) then logically since humans cannot be shown to be superior to other beings (as all standards and criteria are based on biased personal opinions like they are for racial supremacy etc.) they cannot make the same demand when it comes to nonhumans used in vivisection. It is not complicated–it simple and fair morality.
Some will charge that the animal rights advocate must come up with alternatives to nonhuman research. This is an example of a bullying tactic and upside down view of fairness.
If one seeks to find cures for human illness, the onus is on them to do it in a way that does not violate basic and consistent standards of moral conduct, not the animal advocate for pointing out the immorality of a practice.